You’ve probably heard of Jon Krakauer. Even if you’re not quite sure who he is, or why his name is familiar, you’ll probably agree with me that it’s a pretty badass name. And he is a bit of a badass. He climbed the Devil’s Thumb in Alaska by himself and the foreboding Cerro Torre in Patagonia; one of the hardest ascents out there.

Professionally he’s a journalist and the force behind Into the Wild and Into Thin Air, both true tales of tragedy at the hands of brutal nature. The latter concerns itself with the infamous Everest disaster of 1996, which he personally experienced.

Despite being such a force of literature, I didn’t quite expect Mr Krakauer to teach me so many new words in his 288 page recount of the tragic events on Everest.

I’ve compiled a list of the tastiest vocab-boosters he served up. Below each definition is an example to help you seamlessly slip them into your own adventure tales down at the local…

Congenial

Congenial means friendly, pleasant and agreeable, it’s often used to describe someone with similar interests and tastes, or how a thing or activity suits a person. Like everyone who reads We Are Explorers for example.

My interest in bike-packing didn’t really take off until I met a congenial bunch of fellas that loved chafing as much as myself.

Dilettante

Although this Italian-derived word originally referred to someone with an amateur interest in the arts, it has now loosened to describe a person whose interest in a subject is superficial.

Greg talks up his climbing but last week I had to show him how to tie-in to his harness, such a dilettante.

Unstintingly

To stint is to be ungenerous, stingy, if you will. So to be unstinting is to be generous. Therefore doing things unstintingly means doing things … generously? Kinda. It basically means to give without restraint.

I was sad about forgetting my trail snacks until I remembered that Joel was coming, he shares his scroggin’ unstintingly on hikes. What a bro.

Triumvirate

In Ancient Rome “triumvirate” referred to three men sharing their power to rule in a coalition. But we’re not in Ancient Rome, so it just means three powerful or impressive people or things.

Despite winding left and right throughout the valley, we were always under the triumvirate gaze of the Three Sisters, and 7000 tourists on the cliffs.

Glissade

This one’s actually a bit of mountaineering jargon, but it’s such a beautiful word that I had to include it. I also thought that it was a kind of valley when I was trying to figure it out using Krakauer’s context alone.

It’s obvious how to put this one in a sentence, so instead check out the kinda-retro glissading demo below (action starts at 1:44) and get pumped for the warm weather equivalent: scree-skiiing (pictured below).

Tongariro Crossing, Scree Skiiing, New Zealand, mountains

Penumbra

I’m going alllll the way back to the Latin roots for “penumbra”. It’s a combo of two latin words: paene (almost) and umbra (shadow), which makes sense as it describes that blurry bit of shadow on the edges of a real shadow.

If you’re a famous author writing a book about Everest you might even use “penumbra” to describe the hazy metaphorical shadow the mountain casts over your life.

The sun dipped behind the valley walls, but we could not be stopped. For hours we walked in the penumbra of sandstone cliffs – stopping, finally, at beer o’clock.

Censorious

You’ve probably met a censorious person. They think they’re top shit and enjoy ripping on anyone who doesn’t meet their high standards. Bleh. The outdoors isn’t a competition bro r e l a x.

Let’s not bring that censorious douche on the next surf trip – every time he starts going on about kooks I totally lose my mojo.

Ratiocination

Mountaineering is all about being super hardcore and making tough, emotion-free decisions. Rationcination describes a decision-making process centred on logic – which is actually pretty funny when you consider how deeply illogical it is to climb an 8000m mountain. I’m honestly surprised that it took Krakauer so long to whip this one out. I reckon he was saving it.

I love ratiocinating out a new route with the boys on a Friday afternoon.

 


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